Supreme Court of Maryland Agrees to Hear Rothwell Figg Pro Bono Case to Preserve Burial Ground for Former Slaves and Descendants
The Supreme Court of Maryland granted the petition for a writ of certiorari filed by Rothwell Figg on behalf of its pro bono clients in the ongoing battle to halt the sale of the Moses African Cemetery, an African American burial ground, to a developer unless and until the seller, the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC), complies with Maryland law. The Supreme Court of Maryland grants less than 15% of the certiorari petitions filed, and the Court’s ruling reflects the importance of the issues raised by this case—specifically how burial grounds, such as the Moses African Cemetery, are to be treated under Maryland law.
The lawsuit, originally filed in early 2021, seeks to stop the sale of a burial ground for formerly enslaved Africans and their descendants to a developer unless and until it complies with Maryland law that requires the seller of land that is or was used as a burial ground to bring an action in the county in which the burial ground is located so the court may decide whether, and under what terms and conditions, such a sale may take place. In October 2021, the Rothwell Figg team, including Steven Lieberman, Jenny Colgate, and Kristen Logan, were successful in getting Judge Karla Smith to grant a preliminary injunction halting the sale of the property unless and until the HOC complies with Maryland state law. HOC thereafter appealed to the Appellate Court of Maryland, and that Court issued a ruling reversing Judge Smith's decision. Rothwell Figg then filed its cert. petition with the Maryland Supreme Court. Now the Supreme Court of Maryland has agreed to hear the appeal and rule on the very important issues raised by this case. The case is scheduled to be argued in January 2024.